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George Will on Religion Politics

Religious. The columnist & ABC News contributor gives his insights on the historical connections between religion and politics. New.

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  CSPAN    George Will on Religion Politics    Religious. The columnist & ABC News contributor gives his  
   insights on the historical connections between religion and...  

    December 29, 2012
    10:20 - 11:30pm EST  

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ammunition, muskets and cannons. this was after the british had sent more troops to boston after the boston tea party. it is clear the colonists were pulling together. maybe they did not intend to use it. that was a debate. the king basically prohibited british ships from taking ammunition and everything to the colonies, unless it was officialese -- officially sanctioned. as soon as the colonies and found out about the prohibiting of ammunition from being sent to the colonies, in new hampshire and rhode island, the militia took over the force and took the ammunition, so everybody knew it was coming in the winter of 77
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-- 1774. >> kevin phillips suggests 1775 was the critical launching point of the revolutionary war and american independence. sunday night at 8:00. >> next, george will talked about the relationship between religion and american politics. he is introduced by john danforth. this is an hour-and-a-half. >> finally, it is my honor to introduce senator john danforth, who will introduce mr. will. the senator is a partner with the law firm. he graduated with honors from princeton university, where he majored in religion. he received a bachelor of divinity degree from yale divinity school and a bachelor of laws degree from yale law
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school. he practiced law for some years and began his political career in 1968 when he was elected attorney general of missouri in his first place for public office. missouri voters elected him to the u.s. senate in 1976. they reelected him in 1982 and 1988, for a total of 18 years of service. the senator initiated major legislation in international trade, telecommunications, health care, research and development, transportation, and civil rights. he was later appointed special counsel by janet reno. he later represented the united states as u.s. ambassador to the united nations and served as a special envoy to sudan.
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he has been a great friend to missouri, st. louis, and washington university. please join me in welcoming him now. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. i owe our speaker an apology. when you hear the apology, you are going to conclude that i am a really terrible human being. i am the kind of person who takes advantage of a friend, especially a friend who is vulnerable. when he is vulnerable, i pounce. tonight's origin was a rehearsal dinner the night
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before the wedding of victoria will, george's only daughter. george was standing on the edge of the hotel ballroom taking and one of life's great moments. the marriage of the daughter is so deeply emotional. george the loving father was clearly caught up in a moment. that was the moment i seized the opportunity to strike. i sidled up to him and whispered ever so softly in his ear, would you mind giving a lecture at washington university?
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you might ask how anybody could have been so insensitive. after 18 years in the senate, it came naturally. [laughter] george has been a close friend for nearly four decades and it is wonderful to welcome him to st. louis, even if the invitation so disgraceful. george will is one of the most recognizable people in america today. certainly, the most widely known intellectual. he is the author of the least a dozen books. since the early days of the show, he has been a regular on what is now "this week with george stephanopoulos." he is an astute philosopher.
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he is a native of illinois, a student of baseball, a lifelong cubs fan, and as such, he is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. [laughter] despite their rudeness of the invitation, he is my friend. george well. -- george will. [applause] >> jack's invitation is perfectly acceptable. my dear friend william f.
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buckley once called up his friend charleton heston, the actor, and said chuck, do you believe in free speech? he said, of course. he said good, you are about to give one. it is a delight to be back here. it is a delight to be back on campus. long ago and far away, i was a college professor. in 1976, two of my friends ran for the senate against each other in new york state. the night they were both nominated, jim buckley got up
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and said, i look forward to running against professor moynihan. jim buckley is referring to you as professor moynihan. pat said, the mudslinging has begun. [laughter] what you are in for tonight, however, it is a lecture on political philosophy. take notes, there will be a test. in 1953, the year in which the
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words "under god" were added to the pledge of allegiance, it he proclaimed the fourth of july and national day of prayer. on that day, eisenhower fished in the morning, golfed in the afternoon, and played bridge in the evening. there were prayers -- perhaps when the chief executive faced a daunting putt. this was not his first foray into the darkened ground of the relationship between religion and american politics. three days before christmas in 1952, president elect ike made a speech in which he said "our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in the deeply felt religious faith and
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i do not care what it is." he received a much ridicule from his cultured despise years. his professed indifference to the major of the religious faith. it is the first part of the statement that deserves continuing attention. certainly many americans, perhaps the majority of them, agreed that democracy or at least our democracy, which is based on a belief in natural rights, presupposes religious faith. people believe this that all people are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. there are two separate propositions that are pertinent to any consideration of the role of religion in american
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politics. one is an empirical question. is it a fact that the success of a democracy requires a religious people governing themselves by religious norms? the second question is a question of logic. does belief in america as distinctive and democracy, a limited government whose limits are defined by the natural rights of the government, do those entail religious beliefs? regarding the empirical question, i believe religion can still be supremely important and helpful to the flourishing of our democracy. i do not believe it is necessary for good citizenship. regarding the question of our
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government's logic, i do not think the idea of natural rights requires a religious foundation or even that the founders uniformly thought so. it is, however, the case that natural rights are especially grounded when there are grounded in religious. we in journalism are admonished not to bury the lead. we are supposed to put the most important point early on in our story. i will begin by postulating the following. in the 20th-century, the most important decision taken anywhere by anyone about anything was the decision made in the first decade of the last century about where to locate princeton university's graduate college.
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princeton's president, a starchy presbyterian named woodrow wilson, wanted the graduate college located on the main campus. wilson's adversary wanted the graduate college located where it now is. woodrow wilson was a man of unbending temperament when he was certain he was right, which was almost always. he took his defeat about the graduate college badly. he resigned the presidency, went into politics. [laughter] i simplify somewhat and exaggerate a bit. i do so to make a point, however. to date and for the past century, since woodrow wilson was elected the nation's
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president 100 years ago, american politics has been a struggle to determine which best understood what american politics should be. should we practice the politics of woodrow wilson? or the politics of james madison? what has this to do with our topic today, the role of something ancient, religion, in something very modern, american politics? the crux of the difference between the approaches to politics is the concept of natural rights. as i draw for you my picture of the rivalry, i recall the story of a teacher who asked her class to draw a picture of whatever here she chose.
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she circulated among their desks. pausing at the desk of little sally, she asked, of what are you drawing a picture? i am drawing a picture of god. the teacher said, no one knows what god looks like. sally replied, they will in a minute. [laughter] in 30 minutes or so, you will have the picture or so of my theory of the role of religion in american politics. i will note three peculiarities. i write about politics to support my baseball habit.
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jack had the bad taste to mention the chicago cubs. i grew up midway between chicago and st. louis. i had to choose between being a cubs fan and the cardinals fan. all of my friends became cardinal fans and grew up cheerful and liberal. [laughter] i became a gloomy conservative, but not gloomy about long-term prospects. america has just had a presidential election, its 57th.
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the ticket of one of the major parties did not contain a protestant. this was an event without precedent. it is especially interesting because the ticket, a mormon and a catholic, was put forward by a party -- regarding religion, the times, they are changing. when are they not? i am part of this interesting change. i am a member of the nones. when americans are asked their religious affiliation, 20% say none.
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my subject is the role of religion and politics. i am not a person of faith. concerning this, permit me a few digressions. i am the son of a professor of philosophy. he was the son of a lutheran minister. my father may have become a philosopher because his father was a minister. as a boy, the future professor will sat outside the pastors study door listening to the pastor and members of his congregation wrestle with the problem of reconciling free will. by the time my father became an adult, after a childhood of two or more church services every sunday, he had seen quite enough of the inside of churches.
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he also had acquired a philosopher's disposition. i was raised in a secular home, but one which the table talk often took a reflective turn. my father had recently so adjourned at oxford, i was able to spend two years there. oxford was the vibrant center of the study of philosophy. because of that, i next went to princeton to study political philosophy. i began in journalism at the national review. religion is central to the
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american party because religion is not central to american politics. religion plays a large role in nurturing of the virtue because of the modernity of america. our nation assigns the politics, encouraging the flourishing of the infrastructure of the institution that have the primary responsibility for nurturing the sociology of virtue.
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these institutions with their primary responsibility are of the private sector of life. they are not political institutions. some of our founders, notably benjamin franklin, subscribe to the 18th century, a creator that wound up the universe like a clock and did not intervene in the human story. deism explains the existence of the nature of universe, but so does the big bang theory. religion is supposed to consult and conjoin, as well as explain. deism hardly counts as a religion.
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george washington would not kneel to pray. when his pastor rebuked him for setting a bad example, washington mended his ways. he stayed away from church on communion sundays. no ministers were present and no prayers were said when he died. washington had proclaimed that religion and morality are indispensable supports for political prosperity.
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he said that "reason and experience both were best to expect that morality can prevail in exclusion for religious principles. the longer john adams lived, the shorter grew his creed. in the end, it was unitarianism. jefferson wrote those ringing words of the declaration, but jefferson was a utilitarian when he urged his nephew to inquire into the truth of christianity. "if it ends in a belief that there is no god, you'll find virtue in the comforts and pleasantness you feel in virtue's exercise."
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james madison always explained away religion as an innate appetite. the mind, he said, prefers the idea of the self existing clause to an infinite series of cause and effect. even the founders who were unbelievers considered it a civic duty in public service to be observant unbelievers. two days after jefferson wrote his famous letter endorsing a wall of separation between church and state, he attended church services in the house of representatives.
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services were also held at the treasury department. jefferson and other founders made statements like accommodations for the public's strong preference for religion to enjoy ample space in the public square. they understood that christianity fostered attitudes and aptitudes associated with useful to a popular government. protestantism emphasis on the individuals' direct relationship with god and the privacy of individual choice subverted convention hierarchical societies in which deference was expected from the many towards the few.
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beyond that, the american founding owes much more to john locke than to jesus. rights that exist before government exists. rights that are natural and are not creations of the regime that exists to secure them. in 1786, the year before the constitution convention, it in the preamble for religious freedom, jefferson proclaimed "our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions and physics or geometry." since the founding, america's religious enthusiasm have waxed and waned. the durability of america's denominations have confounded
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jefferson's prediction, which he made in 1822. he said there is not a young man now living in the united states who will not die a unitarian. he said his opponent was unfit to be president because, being a unitarian, he did not believe in the virgin birth. the public elected taft. there is a paradox at work. america is the first and most relentlessly modern nation. it is also the most religious modern nation.
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one important reason for this is that we have disentangled religion from public institutions. there has long been a commonplace assumption, one that my dear friend called the liberal expectancy. it was, and still is, an assumption that pre-modern forces will lose their history. the two most important of these are religion and ethnicity. events refute the liberal expectancy. religion still drives history.
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religion is also central to the emergence of america's public philosophy. at the risk of offending specialists by distortion through compression, what we offer a very brief placement of americans foundries. -- founders. machiavelli begins modern political philosophy. this spot is a convenient demarcation. the ancients sought to enlarge the likelihood of the emergence of noble leaders. machiavelli, however, took his bearings from people as they are.
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he defined the political project as making the best of this flawed material. he knew that nothing would ever be made from the crooked timber of humanity. machiavelli was no democrat. he reoriented politics towards accommodations, strong and predictable forces rising from a great constant, human nature common to all people in all stations. for 44 years, machiavelli and luther were contemporaries. luther was no democrat.
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in theory, and least of all in temperament. but he was a precursor. when summoned, he proclaimed, here i stand. i cannot do otherwise. he asserted the privacy of the individual and the individual's conscience. this expressed the logic of his political radicalism. without fully intending to do so, he celebrated individualism at the expense of tradition and of hierarchy.
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because he was in humanity's past, and democracy was in humanity's future. the advent of maternity coincided with a parallel development and a closely related field of philosophy, epistemology. the philosophy of knowledge, of how we know things. descate's played a role in reorienting the political fallout. he sought a ground of certainty, beyond revelation and beyond pure reason. he famously found such a ground in cognition itself. i think, therefore, i am. cogito ergo sum. then senses, sense-data.
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it was supplied the foundations for whatever certainties human beings can achieve. it was then hobbe's philosophy that became the decisive. the bedrock of certainty came from his experience with religious warfare. this strife taught him that all human beings have one shared constant similarity. they all fear death. he directed a philosophy of despotism. in exchange for security, people would willingly surrender the precious sovereignty they possessed in the state of nature where life was solitary, brutish, and short. his philosophy, contained the seeds of democracy.
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all human beings were equally under the sway of the narrative. all human beings can come up without the assistance of a priest, comprehend the basic passions that move the world. to the extent that the world of politics is driven by strong and steady passions and interests, to that extent, there will be a new science of politics. the science of politics based on what all human beings have in common, acknowledged supplied by the senses. because people do not agree
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about religious truths, and because they fight over their disagreements, social tranquility is served by regarding religion as voluntary matter for private judgment. not state-supported and state enforced. in the interest of social peace, the higher aspirations of the ancient political philosophers were pushed to the margins of modern politics. those aspirations were considered, at best, unrealistic. at worst, downright dangerous. henceforth, politics would not be a sphere in which human nature is perfected. political project would not include appointing people towards their highest potentials. instead, a modern politics would be based on the assumption
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that people will express and will act upon the strong impulses of their flawed nature's. people will be self interested. the ancients had asked, what is the highest of which mankind is capable? how can we pursue this in politics? hobbes asked, what is the worst that can happen in politics? and how can we avoid this? america's founders had a kind of political catechism that expressed modernity. what is the worst political outcome? tyranny. what a form of tyranny can happen any republic governed by majority rule?
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tyranny of the majority. how could this be prevented? the answer is by not having majorities that can become tyrannical. reducing the likelihood the stable and tyrannical majority can emerge and endure. how was this to be achieved? by implementing james madison's revolution of democratic theory. of the diminutive madison, he was about 5 foot 3. never have there been such a high ratio of mind to mass. he was princeton's first graduate student and he turned democratic theory upside-down. before madison, few political
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theorists believe democracy could be feasible only in a small face to face society. this was supposedly so because factions were considered the enemy of popular government small societies were thought to be least susceptible to the proliferation of factions. madison's revolutionary theory, the core of which is distilled in federalist paper number 10, was that a republic should be small but extensive, expand the scope of the republic in order to expand the number of factions. the more factions, the merrier. saving multiplicity of factions
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will make it more probable that majorities will be unstable, shifting minority factions. madison related his clear-eyed and unsentimental view to the constitution's structure. the separation of powers. he also said ambition must be made to counteract ambition. >> that is the self- interestedness of rival institutions, presidents, legislatures will check one another. madison famously continued, it may be a reflection on human nature that such device should be necessary to control the abuses of government but what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. if men were angels no government would be necessary.
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if angels were to govern men, night external or internal controls on government would be necessary. so said madison, we must have a policy of supplying by opposite and rival interest that defect better motives. but neither madison nor the other founding father's should predispose without there being good motives somewhere. such motives are manifestations of good character. our founders were not so foolish as to suppose that freedom can thrive or survive without appropriate education and nourishments of character. they understood this must mean education broadly understood to include not just schools, but all the institutions of civil society that explain freedom and equip citizens with the virtues freedom requires.
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these virtues includes self- control, modernization. these reinforce the rationality essential to human happiness. notice when madison like the founding father's generally spoke of human nature, he was not speaking as modern progressives do as manage inconstant, something evolving, something constantly formed and reformedly changing social and other historical forces. when people today speak of nature, they generally speak of flora and trees and animals and other things not human. but the founders spoke of nature as a guide to and as a measure
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of human action. they thought of nature not as something merely to be manipulated for human convenience but rather as a source of norms to be discovered. they understood that natural rights could not be asserted, celebrated and defended unless nature, including human nature is regarded as a normative rather than a merely con ting nt fact. this was a view but stressed by the view of teaching that nature is not chaos but rather as the replace of employment of chaos in the mind and will of the creator. this is the creator who endows us with natural right that is are inevitable, inalienable and universal and hence the
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foundation of democratic quality. and these natural rights are the foundation of limited government. government defined by the limited goal of securing those rights so that individuals may flourish in their free and responsible exercise of those rights. a government thus limited is not in the business of imposing its opinions about what happiness or what excellence the citizens should choose to pursue. having such opinions is the business of other institutions, private and voluntary institutions, especially religious ones that supply the conditions of liberty. thus the founders did not
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consider natural rights reasonable because religion affirmed them, rather the founders considered religion reasonable because it secured natural rights. there may, however, be a cultural contradiction. the contradiction is while religion can sustain liberty, liberty does not necessarily sustain religion. this is of paramount importance because of the importance of the declaration of independence. america's public philosophy is instilled in the declaration's second paragraph. we hold these truths to be self- evident. notice our nation was born with an assertion the important political truths are not merely knowable, they are self-evident, meaning they can be known by any mind, not clouded by
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ignorance or superstition it is the declaration self-evident true that all men are created equal, equal not only in their access to the important political truths, but also in being endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights including life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. next comes perhaps the most important word in the declaration. it is the word secure. to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, jefferson wrote. that is government's primary purpose is to secure preexisting rights. government does not create rights, it does not dispense them. here, concerning the opening paragraphs of the declaration is where wilson and modern
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progressivism enter the american story. wilson urged people not to read what he called the preface to the declaration. he explicitly said if you wish to understand the real declaration of independence, do not read the preface. that is what everyone else calls the essence of the declaration of independence. wilson did so for the same reason he became the first president to criticize the american founding. and he did not criticize it about minor matters. he criticized it root and branch beginning with the doctrine of natural right which is he rejected. his criticism began there precisely because that doctrine dictates a limited government which he considered a cramped unscientific understanding of political seasons. wilson disparaged the doctrine
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of natural rights as quote fourth of july sentiments." he did so because this doctrine limited the plan to make government more scientific in the service of a politics that is much for ambitious. wilson's formative years were the years in which darwin's theory of evolution seeped into the social science, including political science. wilson the first president of the american political science association wanted the political project to make government evolve as human nature evolves. only by doing so he thought could government help human nature progress.
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this is why for progressives progress meant progressing up from the founders and they are falls because static understanding of human nature. only government unleashed from the confining doctrine of natural rights could be muscular enough for this project. such a government needed not the founder's static constitution but a living constitution. a much more permissive constitution, that is the new progressive government needed the old constitution to be construed as granting to the government, powers sufficient for whatever projects the government decided or required for progress. what then about the framer's purpose of writing a constitution to protect people from popular passions.
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wilson argued that the evolution of society had advanced so far that such worries were acknist i can. the passions in society such as the united states had wilson believed been domesticated. they no longer threatened to be tyrannical or threatened the social order. hence wilson thought the state emancipated from the founders static constitution should be and i quote him an instrumentality for quickening in every way both collective and individual development. well, who was to determine what ways might not be suitable. the answer must be the government itself. wilson was as progressives tended to be a his or the cyst, that is someone with a strong sense of theology, history he
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thought had its own unfolding logic, it's autonomous trajectory, it's proper destination. it was the duty of leaders to discern the destination towards which history was progressing and to make government the unfettered better of this progress. progressives tend to exalt the role of farsighted leaders and hence to exalt the role of the american president. this too puts them at odds with the founders.
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the words leader and leaders appear just 13 times in all of the federalist papers, once as a reference to those who led the revolution. the other dozen times are all in context of disparagement. the founders were wary of the people's potential for unrational and unruly passions and were therefore wear of leaders who would seek to ascend to power by arousing ways of such passions. wilson however was unworried about what worried the founders. he said great passions when they run through a whole population inevitably find a great spokesman. in 1912 they found wilson. and he began building what we have today, the modern administrative regulatory state from the supervision of which no corner of life is immune. now, i will leave it to other more theologically grounded persons to decide whether or how the progressive doctrine of
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a changing human nature can be squared with the teachings of various religions. i will, however, postulate. this a nation such as ours steeped in and shaped by biblical religion cannot accommodate a politics that takes it's bearings from the proposition that human nature is a product of malleable forces and perhaps under perfection is a purpose of politics. i will go further, biblical religion is concerned with asserting and defending the dignity of the individual. biblical religion teach that is individual dignity is linked to individual responsibility and moral agency, therefore, biblical religion surely should be wear of the consequences of government unat the timered from the limited purpose of securing natural rights.
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do not take my word for it. take the word of alexis. he wrote democracy in america two generations after the american founding. two generations after madison identified tyranny of the majority as the distinctively worst political outcome that democracy could produce. he had a different answer than madison did to the question of what kind of despotism democratic nations have to fear. his warning is justly famous and more pertinent now than ever. this despotism that worried him would be milder than traditional despotism would degrade men without tormenting them.
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it is absolute, detailed, regular, far seen and mild. it would resemble paternal power if like tatted for its object to prepare men for manhood, button contrary it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood. it rarely works for their happiness but wants to be the sole ash or the for their happiness. it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principle affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their
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inheritances, can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living? so it is he continued that every day it renders the employment of free will less useful and more rare. it confines the action of the will in a smaller space and little by little steals the very use of free will from each citizen. it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd. each of us can, each of us must really decide to what extent this has been full filled. people of faith might ask this, does the tendency of modern politics to take on more and more tasks in order to e little rate the human conditions, does this tend to mute religion's message about reconciling us to that condition.
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and people worry where religious institutions can flourish beneath the dark shade of the government that tries to splay every human need and satisfy every human appetite. to the extent that the politics of modernity attenuates the religion of society, to the extent it threatens society's prosperity and happiness. he understood this. erving described himself as thee tropic by which he meant oriented to the divine. he explained why in he has words which a society needs more than sensible men and women if it is to prosper. it need the energizes of the creative imagination as expressed in the arts.
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it is crucial to the lives of all of our citizens as it is to all human beings at all times that they encounter a world that possesses a transcendent meaning in which the human experience makes sense. nothing is more dehumanizing, more certain to generate a crisis than to experience one's life as a meaningless event in a meaningless world. we may be approaching what is for our nation unexplored and unperilous territory. europe is experiencing that and the results are not attractive. it seems that when a majority of people internalize the big bang theory and ask with peggy lee is that all there is, when many people decide the universe is
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the result of a cosmic sneeze with no meaning, when they conclude that therefore life should be filled, overflowing with distractions, comforts and entertainments to assuage the board m, then they may become susceptible to the excitements of politics that promise assets meaning and spurs alleviations of a human condition berefts and therefore barren. we know from bitter experience of blood soaked 20th century the political consequences of this if it's meaninglessness. political nature of who are vacuum and a vacuum of meaning is filled by secular fighting faiths.
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fascism gave its adherence a meaningful life. communism taught it's adherence to derive meaning from the participation in the drama of history's unfolding destiny. the political paradox is this, secularism advanced in part as moral revolution against the history of religious strife. but there is no precedence for bloodshed in the scale produced in the 20th century by political faiths. therefore even those of us who are members of the growing cohort that pugh calls nuns, we wish continued vigor for the rich array of religious institution that is have leavened american life. we do so for reasons articulated by the most articulated american statesman.
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in 1859 beneath the clouds of war and disunion a successful railroad lawyer from across the river from less than 100 miles north of here, a lawyer turned presidential addressed a wisconsin agricultural society. he concluded his speech with and farme that devised a proposition to be carved in stone, to be forever in view and forever true. after some weeks they returned and the proposition they offered to him was this too shall pass away. said abraham lincoln, how consoling that proposition is in times of grief, how chastening in times of pride and yet said lincoln it is not necessarily true. if he said, we americans cultivate the world within us as we cultivate the physical
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world around us, we perhaps shall long endure. we have long endured. we shall continue to the. this is so in large measure because of america's whole some division of labor between political institution and the intermediary institutions of civil society. including especially religious institutions that mediate between the citizen and the state. the mediating institutions crucial to the flourishing of st. louis include this university, this center and crucial to the dan forget family. thank you and thank them for
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you're attention and now i welcome your comments. i thank you very much. >> we are having time for q&a. we have standing mikes if you will queue at the mikes we will take your turn and we will end promptly at 8:30 which gives us about 20 minutes. >> i appear to have answered every question. >> thanks for coming. what would you see -- one of the arguments for less government involvement with things is that if people hold on to their money more, they would be in a position to take care of the poor, the oh pressed etc.
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can you imagine where else that might come from? do you think it's possible for those people to be taken care of outside of a religious context and outside of a political context and are there any examples of that in other government? >> i am not denying the role which americans of all political persuasions now agree on that the state has in applying a social safety net. i am saying there are potential cost to this and not only financial cost. there is a cost of a crowding out of private initiative, a crowding out of charity. an off loading of all social
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responsibilities on to the state. it is indicative surely of something important that the chartable impulse in the united states is far stronger than it is in europe. and the welfare states are far stronger in europe than they are in the united states. the united states has been tardy some people say backward, i say prudent in not off loading so much of social responsibility on to the state. that's all i'm saying. that there is a cost beyond the financial cost of the entitlement state that ought to be thought about, particularly because right now this becomes extremely practical as we scramble around looking for revenues to fund the entitlement state. people say one way to get more revenues is to limit chartable deductions so the state grows and at the same time simultaneously and because of
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that limits the chartable efficacy of the charitable impulse. >> do you think outside of religious organizations or the government, do you think something else would fill that vacuum? >> lots of things. the democracy in america, still the greatest book written. he wrote it when we were just becoming a mass democracy and nothing struck him more than the american society in generating spontaneous order of voluntary associations. it's no other country is like this. when the wagon trades would leave -- a great american his attorney who was librarian of congress. he wrote about the second day out they circumstance it would wagons and write a constitution for the wagon train and assign tasks and have committees. it's in our national d.n.a.,
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partly because we believe in govern answer from the bottom up. >> thank you so much. this was a wonderful lecture. i only hope that conservatism has more defenders in the coming decade. i have a couple of questions. one kind of piggy backs. you said at the beginning of your these sis that religion is in the place of civil society where we discuss and define our moral values, religion should be separated from politics, continuing on what is the danger of having government and politics continually encroach upon a civil society that is supposed to be separate from that? and separate from that i really enjoyed everything you said.
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my question regarding the logic of your argument is how do you have this idea that biblical religion supports human rights with the fact that christianity and the bible has changed dramatically over the last 2,000 years? >> i would argue that the essence of christianity has not changed over the last 2,000 years. it is been used for political purposes and people tend to piggy back their political agendas on to all kind of mankind inheritance. but biblical religion is a constant of human nature. i do not think and certainly did not intend to say that a belief in natural rights needs to be grounded in religion. jefferson believes our rights don't depend on our religious beliefs.
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i do believe it is the case that religious people are grounded in the right are natural because nature was designed by a creator have a particularly strong foundation for a belief in our rights. >> thank you so much for being here. it's an honor. did you ever consider running for political office, what were the determining factors and would you ever consider it in the future? >> no to the first question. i live in maryland. there are only three republicans in maryland. and second public life would cut into my baseball too much. third, i have a metabolic urge to write. i can't stop and so that would interfere. >> please don't. keep it up.
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>> thank you very much. >> i'm curious. i know in a lot of your comments you date the modern expansion of government going back to wilson. i'm curious could this be [indiscernible] >> you are absolutely right. lincoln expanded executive power more than anybody ever envisioned. he did so exclusively under the war powers of the constitution. the emancipation proclamation was explicitly [indiscernible] in the war powers. in the war powers.

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